The recent Trump-like HH tweet about the donated fire-trucks left me wondering if he has politic strategists or not. African opposition politicians lose elections due to lack of strategic responses to national issues. The late Movement for Democratic Change leader in Zimbabwe, Morgan Tvangirai is an excellent example. Despite many opportunities to take power from Mugabe, Morgan blew up every chance that came his way. Even when it was evident that ZANUPF was highly divided, Morgan backed the military takeover–calling on Mugabe to resign. What did MDC gain out of the ZANUPF saga–nada.
I fear this is the route HH is taking. HH followed comedian Trevor Noah’s negative characterization of those donated engines. Unlike Noah, however, HH is a politician. “Which museums are they destined to in Zambia? Would like to view them at close range”?, HH sarcastically wrote. He added, “With the amount of money spent to collect this scrap, we could have provided financial aid to over a hundred students at UNZA.” I applaud his attempt to attract the UNZA vote, but Zambia needs fire engines. It is sad that the fire department is arguably the most underfunded. Our fire departments exist, but they are museums–they lack basic fire-fighting engines. Those who do have older engines than the donated ones.
Scrap? U.S. fire engines rarely travel long distances; are regularly serviced, and have lower mileage than hundreds of thousands of cars, mini-buses and trucks on our roads. What happened to the saying, “Don’t judge the book by its cover”? Millions will praise God for owning one of those scraps. And many are very proud owners of second or fifth-hand scraps with “19th century technology.” The only difference is that they are not solicited by the First Lady, but we buy and ship them from Japan.
As for the museums those engines are destined, it is the entire Lusaka. Is HH blind to know that people use buckets to put out fires in most parts of Lusaka? Is he blind to fire-related deaths in the nation? How about the markets? It is not long ago that HH donated bags of 25kg mealie meal. Those who can afford can demean the gesture, but it meant something to a starving mother or child. I will not be surprised if his 2021 opponents cast him as out of touch with reality or simply too blind to people’s daily needs.
With little strategic tact, HH could have used those engines to speak to the need to increase first responders in the nation. No Zambian should watch his or her property go into frame–we need more engines. Rather than sending the First Lady to beg, Parliament should increase funding to the fire department.
He also had an opportunity to tie these engines to his recent trip to the US. To maintain those GMC fire engines, he would have argued, there is need for US investment.Or perhaps he could have acknowledged the donation, and then argue that Zambia should aspire to be a donor nation by increasing production and investment in the motor industry. To reach this goal, investor confidence and good governance are critical–something the PF has failed to deliver. His government, HH could have insisted, will do that. Unfortunately, he missed opportunities to fight PF on policy–his attack went personal.
Millions may dislike Lungu, but to think that the poor economy alone will sink the boat in 2021 is mere speculation. Telling by by-election results, the PF still has a big following in the nation. So HH needs to bring neutral voters into his caucus–but without a sustained message, like those trucks, his 2021 bid is headed to political museums. The good news is, he has money to try again in 2026. Or he is destined to Zambian political museum in 2021.
Rev. Kapya Kaoma